Tide’s Howard making most of newfound success
By Graham Dunn
HOOVER – O.J. Howard didn’t know what to expect when he arrived Wednesday at the Wynfrey Hotel and SEC Media Days.
He already knew about the Alabama fans and how dedicated they were.
But the filled lobby with colorful personalities spoke more volume.
“It was crazy out there,” he said. “Alabama fans are passionate but this was something to see. I’ve never been here so this was a new experience.
“That’s just an example of how they’re going to be in the fall when the season comes around. The fans are always traveling with us. They show great support. This isn’t even half of our fans. I can only imagine what it’s like when fall rolls around. It was kind of like ‘wow, these fans are just here for Media Days. Imagine what they do for an actual game.”
Howard, who prepped at Autauga Academy, enjoyed a lot of new attention after his MVP performance in last year’s championship win over Clemson. After catching zero touchdown passes for the entire regular season, the tight end caught two in the title game and had another huge reception late in the fourth quarter to help Alabama secure the win.
“O.J. has been an outstanding player for us and a very unselfish guy in terms of, you know, the things he’s done and how he has contributed to our team,” Saban said. “He’s contributed to our team in a fantastic way. It doesn’t always get recognized because it seems like it’s always recognized on how many big plays you make or how many passes you catch. And he had several really big games for us.
“I think he’s definitely someone who is a threat and should be developed as a threat in our offense and should be used as such. And would certainly like to do that. We have other players that, you know, are outstanding, whether it’s Calvin Ridley or ArDarius Stewart or maybe the running backs that we’ve had, and hopefully we’ll develop and have success this year.”
How much Howard is involved in the offense is up in the air, despite his championship performance. It was pointed out prior to last season that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin wanted him involved more. It never really materialized, catching just 38 passes.
“I have to be ready when called upon,” he said. “My sophomore year, I didn’t do a lot of blocking in the offseason, so that’s something I worked on with my coaches. For my junior year, we worked more on the running game.”
Howard had an opportunity to turn pro after last year. Instead he chose to return even though he had earned his degree.
“I wasn’t really thinking about that,” he said. “I wanted to graduate. I still needed to get better in running routes."